JOURNAL ARTICLE

Association of chronic hepatitis C with major depressive disorders: irrespective of interferon-alpha therapy

Mauro G Carta, Maria Carolina Hardoy, Alessandra Garofalo, Enrica Pisano, Valentina Nonnoi, Gesuina Intilla, Giancarlo Serra, Cinzia Balestrieri, Luchino Chessa, Cristiana Cauli, Maria Eliana Lai, Patrizia Farci
Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health: CP & EMH 2007 October 23, 3: 22
17956625

BACKGROUND: Mood and anxiety symptoms in chronic hepatitis C (CHC) may be related to the patient awareness of the diagnosis and prognosis, to side effects induced by interferon (IFN)-alpha treatment, as well as to substance abuse. However, the observation of metabolic alterations in patients with CHC has led to hypothesize a direct effect of hepatitis C virus (HCV) on brain function. This study was aimed at elucidating whether CHC is associated with specific anxiety or mood disorders independently of confounding factors.

METHODS: Patient cohort: consecutive patients, 135 with CHC and 76 with chronic hepatitis B (CHB).

EXCLUSION CRITERIA: previous treatment with IFN-alpha, co-infection with HCV and hepatitis B virus, infection with human immunodeficiency virus, drug or alcohol abuse, or malignancies.

CONTROLS: subjects without evidence of hepatitis randomly extracted from the database of a previous epidemiological study; they were divided into two groups of 540 (332 males) and 304 (220 males) as controls for patients with CHC and CHB, respectively. The psychiatric diagnosis was formulated by means of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview Simplified carried out by a physician according to DSM-IV criteria.

RESULTS: A higher lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) was observed among CHC compared to CHB or controls. The risk of MDD was not statistically different between CHB and controls. Both the CHC and CHB groups showed a significantly higher frequency of panic disorder when compared to controls. No statistical differences were observed in the prevalence of general anxiety disorder and social phobia when CHC or CHB were compared to controls.

CONCLUSION: The present study provides the first evidence of an association between CHC and MDD, diagnosed on the basis of well-defined international criteria. This association is independent of treatment with IFN-alpha and is not influenced by substance or alcohol abuse. By contrast, anxiety disorders do not appear to be specifically associated with CHC.

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